(CNN) — NBA star James Harden expressed disbelief after Chinese fans snapped up 10,000 bottles of his own brand of wine in seconds.
The veteran guard of the Philadelphia 76ers joined online celebrity Crazy Brother Yang’s live stream on Tuesday to promote his J-Harden brand wine as 15 million viewers tuned in, the state-run tabloid Global Times reported.
“How many bottles do you usually sell in a day… from one store?” Yang asked Harden, who replied, “A few cases.”
Yang then told the star to see how fast they could sell them. “Let’s see,” Harden replied, leaning back with his arms folded.
“Ready? Go!” Yang told viewers. Just 14 seconds later, he yelled, “Stop!”
With 5,000 orders at $60 for two bottles, according to Global Times, sales hit $300,000 in a flash.
“Not really!” said Harden, looking at a computer screen before bursting into laughter and applause.
Livestream shopping has exploded in popularity in China in recent years and has become a multibillion-dollar industry. It combines entertainment and e-commerce, where the host offers viewers flash deals or coupons in real time. Viewers can buy goods directly from streamers and click to send virtual “gifts” to their favorite stars.
The streamers sell everything from makeup and skincare to laundry detergent, and top hosts can earn millions of dollars a year, leading many to quit their full-time jobs in hopes of becoming an online star.
Harden’s live stream was quickly trending on Chinese social media, with some fans joking that he should play in China instead of the NBA and reap the benefits of his fan base there.
Basketball is extremely popular in China, thanks in no small part to Chinese Hall of Fame legend Yao Ming’s NBA career. The league also has a long history in the country, spending decades and millions of dollars building courts, bringing in stars for preseason games, and initially giving away free broadcast rights.
That popularity among hundreds of millions of Chinese fans translates into lucrative sponsorship deals for the league and its star players. China accounted for at least 10% of the league’s current revenue before the pandemic, according to one analyst.
But doing business in China also comes with risks, which the NBA faced in 2019 after becoming embroiled in political controversy when then Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong .
In response, the NBA’s Chinese partners suspended ties with the league, state broadcaster CCTV stopped all game broadcasts, and the Chinese government told the NBA to show “mutual respect”.
Morey apologized and removed the tweet, and the NBA said his comments were “deplorable” – but that prompted a backlash from fans in the United States and Hong Kong, who accused the league of censorship and bowing to Beijing.
Harden, who was with the Rockets at the time, also apologized for the controversy. “We apologize, we love China, we love playing here,” he told reporters a few days after Morey’s tweet. “We love everything they stand for. We appreciate the support they give us individually and as an organization.”
This week, Harden lashed out at Morey — now president of the 76ers — amid ongoing trade speculation surrounding the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be part of any organization he is part of,” Harden said at an event in China.
Footage of Harden’s comments has been widely circulated on social media. The comments were in response to a public question about ending trade talks, according to NBA.com.